Is Your Business Ready for the Talent Storm?

When the pandemic is over, one result might be a period of unprecedented hiring activity as businesses reboot their talent acquisition processes, according to a new report from Armstrong Craven. Proactive recruiters could well find that top-line talent once impossible to even talk to is now accessible. Here’s more, with additional insight from Peter Howarth about some changes already underway.

June 3, 2020 – COVID-19 has now hit global employment harder than the 2008 recession. When normal life resumes, millions of people will be without jobs, and millions of jobs without people. According to new report by Armstrong Craven, one possible outcome, which the HR world must prepare for is a period of unprecedented hiring activity as businesses around the globe reboot their talent acquisition processes. The talent insight and executive search firm refers to this as the “talent storm” and it has the potential to change the talent landscape.

A lot of people are facing the first period of employment uncertainty in their careers, the firm said. All “non-essential staff” are now working from home, and many are responsive to networking approaches they would have previously ignored. “Proactive talent teams can use this opportunity to reach out to these ‘unicorn’ candidates with niche skills or experience,” Armstrong Craven said. “To be truly proactive, internal teams will benefit from in-depth maps of current talent pools.”

“You will see from your networks that high performers from hard-hit industries and functions are finding themselves looking for work, sometimes for the first time in years,” the search firm said. “Accustomed to being in demand or comfortable in a fulfilling role, they would never have been accessible under ordinary circumstances. Talent teams who can be decisive and invest in high performers have unprecedented access to the market.”

Armstrong Craven also pointed out that there are still opportunities for those organizations not yet ready to invest in talent. “During this uncertain time, it’s crucial to ensure your employer brand is in the front of the previously unavailable candidate’s mind,” the firm said. Armstrong Craven’s talent pipeline service allows clients organizations to engage with and understand the career goals and motivations of these ‘unicorns’ and build relationships with them to ensure they are ready to join once companies can invest again.

Remote Working

COVID-19 has arguably accelerated the digital transformation of the workplace more than any tool or technocrat. This has pushed companies to adopt a “move fast and break things” approach to learning how to communicate, innovate and lead in a virtual workplace. For example, Armstrong Craven said that “moving a global corporate head office to fully remote working, which would previously have taken years of planning and consultation, has been successfully completed in a matter of days.”

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

“We can expect some degree of social distancing for months to come, meaning remote working will become the norm for millions of us,” the firm said. “Once the pandemic passes, talent teams should prepare for a huge increase in the number of workers wanting to work remotely some or all the time, a revolution that has been anticipated for years.”

This challenge is also an opportunity: Why fight the big players (or payers) for scarce talent in a particular city when remote working has finally arrived? At Armstrong Craven, its talent insights can help clients decide how to make long-term working from home a reality, while global mapping projects help clients secure the best talent for niche roles no matter the location.

What companies do for their workers, candidates and communities during COVID-19 will define their employer brand for generations. Armstrong Craven is already gathering insight on how our clients’ COVID-19 policies and communications stack up against their competitors. “We use this competitor insight to advise our clients on what an industry-leading EVP looks like in this unprecedented time,” the firm said.

Executive Search Disruption

Peter Howarth, who serves as joint managing partner of Armstrong Craven, recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to share his view on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the search and talent sectors and how Armstrong Craven is going about its business. He is now leading commercial activities at the firm, managing its team of client partners and helping to further develop client relationships. He has a background in HR consulting and recruitment and has worked for listed and private equity-backed recruitment companies in leadership roles. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Related: Conducting a Job Search During a Global Pandemic


         Peter Howarth

Peter, how has the global pandemic changed how searches are performed? 

Clients have moved very quickly to embrace video interviews as a primary method to assess candidates. While some firms are happy to complete a search based on video interactions alone, many are selecting a preferred candidate and pausing their appointment until that person can be met face-to-face by key stakeholders. Given that Armstrong Craven uses a deconstructed search model we are also finding more clients utilizing our talent mapping and pipelining services, and then picking up the candidate management activities themselves as they have in-house executive recruiters who now have time to manage the remainder of the process. This is providing significant cost benefits to many new clients.

Have you seen clients delay search assignment or are they moving forward? 

Many companies have prioritized their search activity, and as such a number of assignments have been postponed. Only a few have been cancelled, and these are mainly with companies who are restructuring their entire executive team as a result of the pandemic, and some are now starting to bring different assignments forward as the shape of their future executive team emerges

“As the only level of talent acquisition which has been largely unimpacted by change over recent years, it is almost inevitable that the executive search sector will be permanently disrupted by the pandemic.”

What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on the executive search industry? Do you think this will change the way searches are being performed going forward? 

As the only level of talent acquisition which has been largely unimpacted by change over recent years, it is almost inevitable that the executive search sector will be permanently disrupted by the pandemic. Pressures to manage reduced costs and change the makeup of executive teams means clients are starting to look at more cost-effective ways to identify leadership talent, and the power of networks and ‘black books’ is likely to decline.

What would you like to say to your clients and colleagues during this time? 

Although times are currently uncertain, many organizations are starting to think about life beyond the pandemic. That will mean a continued period of change for many, but with that there will be opportunities for people and businesses who show themselves to be adaptable, commercial and above all who have acted responsibly towards their teams, stakeholders and the wider environment during the pandemic.

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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